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Parents need to encourage child's play

Media release Wednesday 3 May 2006

Parents need to encourage child's play, says AUT study

New research shows a positive link between children's overall activity levels and their physical activity behaviour outside of the school environment.

AUT University PhD scholar Michele Cox carried out the study comparing primary school-aged children's in and out of school activity and discovered both girls and boys completed more steps after school.

The study recently appeared in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Overall 52.4% of steps were taken outside of school and 47.6% in school. This was more pronounced among the most active children who completed 55.1% of their steps outside school, compared to 46.7% in the least active group.

"This makes sense given there is a ceiling on the amount of physical activity a child can do within a school's structured physical education classes, organised sport and breaks," says Ms Cox.

"Parents need to recognise this and take responsibility for getting their children moving and not load it onto schools and say 'you do it'."

The findings are based on 91 children aged between 5 and 11 years old from an Auckland decile 7 primary school. The children wore pedometers for three consecutive days and measurements were taken at the end of the school day and first thing in the morning.

The study also confirmed boys are more active than girls with a mean step difference of 2,575 steps, and while the average for both was within the recommended guidelines, the extremely high levels of some masked a large group of sedentary children.

"The activity levels of some children, as low as 7,000 steps per day, are a real concern. So it's important that physical activity is continued to be promoted to all children, even the seemingly active ones," says Ms Cox.

The study also found the older the child, the more steps they do.

"This could be because younger children are more supervised in their play or pedometers may underestimate their steps because of the children's slower total speed and the intermittent nature of their play."

Ms Cox hopes to go onto study who parents, schools and children think are responsible for encouraging their physical activity.

"I suspect schools and parents might blame each other, but if nothing changes, obviously our children's activity rates won't improve."

Ms Cox is also Head of Women's Football for New Zealand Soccer and is a member of the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Committee for Women's Football and the FIFA Women's World Cup.


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